SS-27 Mod 2 / RS-24 Yars

November 23, 2015 By Kristin Horitski



The RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile is a MIRVed version of the Topol-M with the payload modified to carry at least four MIRVs each containing a thermonuclear warhead weighing 300 kilotons. [1] The Yars is solid-fueled and can be launched from a silo or mobile launcher. [2] Like its predecessor the Topol-M, the Yars is designed to evade missile defense systems and is becoming a foundational part of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RSMF) [3] with an estimated 80% of Russia’s ground-based missile force being made up of Topol-M and Yars missiles by 2016. [4]

Since its introduction in 2010, when the first road-mobile Yars was deployed at Teykovo, the Yars has replaced SS-19 missiles at the 28th Missile Guards Division at Kozelsk, and is deployed at Novosibirsk and Tagil. [5] Russia also continues to retire old SS-18, SS-19, and SS-25 missiles replacing them with the Yars or deactivating silos and garrisons. [6]

Strategic Implications

Russia has signaled its intentions to revive its railroad-based ICBM program using a modified Yars missile. The Soviets first deployed rail-mobile ICBMs in 1987, with modified SS-24 Scalpel missiles. Only 12 rail-mobile ICBMs were deployed by 1991. [7] By 2002, Russia removed all rail-mobile missiles from service and closed its last railcar and mobile-missile operating base in 2007. [9] Under New START, which entered into force in February 2011, there are no prohibitions on the use deployment of rail-mobile ICBMs. Russia has put forth several plans to redeploy rail-based missiles including one codenamed “Barguzin. Under this plan, each train would carry six Yars ICBMs and the railcars would look similar to passenger or cargo trains, making it difficult to identify their cargo. [10] Russia seeks to use rail-mobile missiles to increase the survivability of its nuclear forces in case of a nuclear war. Although rail-mobile missiles provide some benefits, these benefits are not as great today as they were during the Cold War. Russia’s railways are well-mapped today and satellites can show where a particular missile train is starting from, allowing for its projected path to be determined. [11]


[1] “Russia successfully tests latest ‘YARS’ intercontinental ballistic missile.” RT. Published December 24, 2013.

[2] “RS-24 Yars ICBM.” Missile Threat. Updated May 9, 2015.

[3] Gady, Franz-Stefan. “Russia to Add 40 New ICBMs: Should the West Be Worried?” The Diplomat. June 17, 2015.

[4] “RS-24 Yars (SS-29) is a fifth-generation intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).” Sputnik. September 5, 2015.

[5] Kristensen, Hans M. “Russian ICBM Force Modernization: Arms Control Please.” Federation of American Scientists. May 7, 2014.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Russia to develop new rail-mobile ICBM system.” April 25, 2013.

[9] Podvig, Pavel. New START on Rail-Mobile ICBMs and Reloads. Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. April 29, 2010,

[10] “Rail Phantom: Russia Developing Invisible ‘Death Trains’ With Nukes.” Sputnik. Updated September 26, 2015.

[11] Pappalardo, Joe. “Why Russia’s Plan to Put Nukes on Trains Won’t Work.” Popular Mechanics. December 30, 2014.

Missile Threat and Proliferation


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